“I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.” –Jesus (John 15:11)
When some of us hear the word “joy” it sounds like a foreign language.
It’s an abstract idea we speak of but is disconnected from our reality.
A life beaming with ongoing “joy” is an alternative universe on the other side of the looking glass. Some people appear to have the privilege of living there breezily- yet it is a fight for you. You can’t seem to get a grip on it for yourself or when you do it slips like sand through your fingers and only lasts long enough for the next wave to hit.
And maybe you can reflect on a time or single moment in your life where you caught a glimpse of living with hope-driven, opportunistic and limitless “joy”, but now that feels like a completely different lifetime- as if you were an onlooker, playing back the film of someone you once knew but has been long gone.
And you wonder if the lights will ever cut back on.
If the cement has dried and you’re destined to be set in this way for life.
If this is who you are now.
A person so hijacked by life and your emotions that you cannot hold onto your joy.
Maybe you’ve convinced yourself that this is a world of the have’s and the have not’s and when it comes to the idea of living a joyful life, you are the have not’s. So you find it best not to feel too much, get too hopeful or dream too hard.
If you’ve gotten the chance to join me for the 7 Day Anxiety Detox, I spent Day 6 talking about Foreboding Joy.
It is when we convince ourselves to fear things that either haven’t happened yet or don’t even exist. Sometimes it’s so bad, we won’t allow ourselves to get too happy, enjoy ourselves too much or experience the fullness of a great relationship. We self-sabotage our own joy all out of the fear of disappointment.
Fear that it’s only so long before something goes wrong.
We’d rather be prepared than endangered,
but these walls soon become a self-imposed prison.
The whole idea is that “You sacrifice joy, but you suffer less pain.”
If you’re struggling with Foreboding Joy and have been living in this cycle but can’t see where it’s defining your life, here are 4 ways to identify that you may be self-sabotaging your own joy.
1. Overthinking every situation.
The truth is that you cannot experience the fullness of joy without allowing yourself to be vulnerable to the present. Take it from someone who has a hyper-thinking drive and projects herself 20 steps ahead. The obsession that births from overthinking is a deep fear of loss of control and a vain attempt at trying to gain it back. Whether that be the social anxiety that is overly concerned about what people will think of you, the testing of a relationship or stepping into a life change where you cannot 100% know the outcome- you think that if you replay it often enough or think about it long and hard enough you’ll somehow break through to gain control over the things you humanly can’t.
Your real problem is the inability to live with the unknown and needing to have all the answers, which isn’t a realistic expectation in this life. You need to create better thought boundaries of knowing when you’ve done all you can do and when it’s time to let go. And once you’ve given it to God do not take it back. You trust Him, you take each day at a time to make the most of the present and you trust that no matter what the outcome is, you have the ability to readjust, bounce back and keep going forward as you have time and time again with previous trials in your life.
2. Drawing conclusions too quickly.
What often results from overthinking is creating a conclusion in your mind of how things are going to turn out. Most of these conclusions are shaped by our fears. And this sabotages any chances we may have had to experience the fullness of love, hope or joy because making assumptions puts us in a premeditated state of mind. We are now going into the situation from a place of fear and disappointment. Think about the encounters you tend to enter from a premeditated state of mind.
You have to learn how to go into situations with an open mind and heart because many times the things we fear do not turn out the way we pictured in our head. But if you are already set in your head then you will begin to see and confirm things from your mentality and not as they genuinely are. This is called a confirmation bias. It will cut you off from experiencing the potential beauty of moments that only an open heart can see. That could be stepping out into meeting new friends, appreciating a good relationship or just entering unpredictable situations with eyes of opportunity. And you can maintain this all while remaining realistic about it. Again, that is by trusting that if it doesn’t go the way you hoped, with God as your strength, you have the ability to adjust and move forward as needed.
3. Codependency and the inability to separate your emotions from others.
One of the biggest ways we self-sabotage our own joy is by too easily becoming enmeshed in others and letting them influence our thoughts, attitudes, and behaviors. This is the epitome of co-dependency. It is the inability to separate yourself from another person as an individual and draw boundaries between who they are and who you are. You are responsible for yourself and they are responsible for themselves. You do not have to give yourself away to everyone in reaction. You do not have to transform into a negative person just because someone else is. You cannot keep giving other people the power over who you will be. You need to practice identifying yourself as an individual and owning your own attitude and behavior. You choose hope. You choose joy. You choose to be a person of character. You choose to keep going even if no one else around you is. This is not weakness- this is leadership.
4. Perfectionism and never allowing yourself to be enough.
Lastly, I touch on this from a personal place. The line to draw in which to be satisfied with who you are and what you have done, is a blurred one. If you live with the syndrome of feeling like you are never enough then achievement and a potential is a moving target. From this you cannot find joy with yourself or embrace the beauty of what God is trying to do through you because you have an imbalanced perspective that continues to see things from a deficit. You need to raise your thinking and fill the empty glass a bit. Not too full or pouring with a vain false confidence, but just enough to get a positively humble outlook on life and yourself.
You are a work in progress that is constantly becoming. There will always be a way to do better and be better. That is the human experience. And I touch on this more on When Insecurity Gets in the Way of Your Purpose. At some point, at the end of the day, you have to let it all be enough and have the courage to say “I will try again tomorrow” and let that too be enough. From there we can take a deep breath and marvel in the gems of good that came from each day and pray that the seeds we’ve sewn will reap a harvest over time by the anointing touch of God’s Spirit. That is all we can do.
Renewing our joy is a perspective we wake up and practice every day. It’s a choice we make to take a step back and intentionally shift our thoughts in the moments we’re tested the most. It’s when we stop taking everything onto ourselves and redirect our hope and trust in God to make the most out of the unknown. We realize it doesn’t come down to what we know but Who we know and trust He will give us the strength to adapt to life with continued hope no matter the waves because He is our anchor. Will you join me in the pursuit to end the self-sabotaging cycle of killing our own joy by starting with being vulnerable to enjoy the present?
I’d love to hear your thoughts so be sure to drop a comment below!